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Three Things We Learned from Notre Dame Basketball’s Embarrassing 80-77 Loss to Ball State

It’s almost like size matters in college basketball.

NCAA Basketball: St. Francis-NY at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that certainly could have gone better. It’s one thing to lose on the road to one of the best teams in the nation. But it seems as if the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have failed to move on from that loss, even with a Maui Invitational championship under their belt. The Irish followed up a weird win over St. Francis (BKN) on Sunday with a 80-77 loss to the unranked and .500 Ball State Cardinals Tuesday night. Here’s what we learned.

NCAA Basketball: St. Francis-NY at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Ugly Starts Are a Thing

Ugly, slow starts may be a staple for this Notre Dame basketball team. Under Mike Brey, the Irish have traditionally been known as an efficient, if not high-powered, offense. While we have seem some of those patented 30-point blowouts against lesser teams this year, the Irish are yet to jump on anyone from the tip.

On Tuesday night, it was 8-5 at the first media timeout. In the first 11 minutes and 50 seconds of the game, the Irish managed only 13 points. You can’t lead by 30 if you’ve only scored 13.

These type of starts seem to be a trend for the Irish, and while they managed the comeback against Wichita State, it doomed them against Michigan State. While they never reached getting-blown-out territories against Ball State Tuesday night (Ball State’s largest lead was 10), they also never got over the hump and ultimately lost the game.

DJ Harvey’s Freshman is Showing

One of our readers pointed out that the Michigan State game was the first time the “moment looked to big” for D.J. Harvey. It was true, but it wasn’t all too surprising, and it wasn’t unacceptable. He’s a freshman after all, on the road, against the #3 team in the nation.

NCAA Basketball: Mount St. Mary's at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t want to be too hard on Harvey, but you’d like to see a little bit of improvement at home against a MAC school. In the first half against Ball State, Harvey committed a few bad fouls and turnovers in a sequence that led to the highly touted prospect riding the bench for the second half. He’ll have to learn from this experience, and with Brey as his coach and the senior leadership on the team, I think he will.

In the meantime, Martinas Geben and Rex Pflueger stepped up to show their value to the Fighting Irish, keeping the game close.

Downsizing to the Grave

This is probably the most egregious stat of the game, next to the final score. Notre Dame was out-rebounded 40-26. By Ball State. Yeesh. That’s a death sentence against anyone, and it looks really, REALLY bad against a MAC school.

It’s an accepted fact that Notre Dame doesn’t have the size and athleticism that a lot of programs do. But Bonzie Colson is the double-double machine, and Geben was coming off his first career double-double. How do the Irish get out-rebounded so badly?

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a tricky balance Coach Brey is trying to achieve with going small for offensive purposes, and a lot of times it works really well. Playing Farrell and Gibbs at the same time is essentially having two point guards on the floor. When they are scoring the ball it’s great, but Gibbs has gone cold. He had only eight points Tuesday night.

This is a worrying trend moving forward, and makes one hope that D.J. Harvey can improve greatly to offer some size in the backcourt to complement Farrell/Gibbs on offense and fill in on defense when Pflueger is on the bench.